Aspen invites you to meet our faculty — Gina Oellig!
Early Childhood Studies faculty member, Gina Oellig, has known she wanted to be a teacher since the 3rd grade. Her passion for literacy comes through in everything she does. In fact, if she had a superpower, it would to bestow literacy on every child.
What is your name? Gina Oellig
Where are you from? I’m originally from St. Petersburg, Florida, but I was raised in (and currently reside) Colorado Springs.
Who lives at home with you? I live with my husband of 29 years (Mike) and my 15-year-old daughter, Zia.
What do you teach (for what program)? I teach in the School of Education. I work with students attaining their Associates in Early Childhood Studies or Bachelor’s degrees in Early Childhood Studies. I’m also a full-time instructional coach at an elementary school in Colorado Springs and have been with them for 17 years.
What are some of your favorite hobbies? I absolutely love reading. I also enjoy hiking and just being in the mountains (especially reading) in general (and at the beach reading, whenever I make it back to Florida).
What inspires you? My daughter and my students (both adults and children) inspire me. I constantly reflect on how I can impact them and set an example for how to be a good person as well as a teacher.
Which superpower would you like to have and why? Hopefully, this doesn’t sound cheesy, but I wish I had the power to make every child be able to read (and easily). I told you it probably sounded cheesy. 🙂
I’ve seen so many children struggle in school and then in life because of their lack of ability to read, which then has repercussions with their writing as well. I see it in my adult students. It impacts their self-esteem immensely. I watched my sister-in-law not even want to read to my daughter when she was just two years old because of her abilities. Our prison system is filled with people who have reading issues (Dyslexia). I could go on with many stories.
What’s your professional and educational background? Where did you go to school? I started out working in a preschool/daycare while in high school. I was also able to attend Pikes Peak Community College during that time. I began as an aide then moved on to teacher, assistant director, and finally director within the same company. I eventually transferred to the University of Southern Colorado (now called Colorado State University-Pueblo), earning my Bachelor’s degree. After my first year in elementary education, I decided to work for my Master’s degree and decided on an online program. My major was Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in…you might have guessed it … Literacy!
Share an “aha!” moment that you’ve had within your discipline that made you feel passionate about your field? I’ve been in my field for 30 years, and luckily I’ve always had a passion for early childhood education. I do think though that one of my defining moments was after my first year in teaching elementary. I began in Kindergarten. Watching students come in who couldn’t write their name, nor recognize letters, numbers (let alone the concept of what those numbers mean), and then seeing them attain all of that knowledge in 170 days of instruction is mindblowing and oh-so rewarding. And when those students come back to visit you once they’re in high school or college? Well, that makes all those exhausting (and challenging) times our profession has, completely worth it.
How did you get your start in teaching? I’ve known since I was in 3rd grade that I wanted to be an educator. My teacher provided me the refuge, structure, and consistency that I needed to succeed. It wasn’t just about the academics.
What do you enjoy about teaching at Aspen? I genuinely enjoy the relationships that I’ve been able to build with so many students. I’ve learned so much from them! I also love learning about educational cultures around the world.
What makes Aspen students unique? Aspen students work hard. So many of them are working and attending school while also having families to take care of. I’ve worked with many single parents who are just trying to juggle it all. It’s very humbling.
What should a student expect when enrolling in your course(s)? When enrolling in my courses, students should expect to build relationships, hopefully with their peers and myself. They should expect a caring teacher who has their best interests at heart. They should expect to work hard, as I do have high expectations. The early childhood profession doesn’t always get looked at as being just that — a profession. Many think that teachers are glorified babysitters. They don’t realize the full impact that our educators have on children. This is part of the reason why I have those high expectations of my students. We have to prove that we are “worthy” of being looked at as professionals.
If you had to be shipwrecked on a deserted island, but all of your human needs — such as food and water — were taken care of, what two items would you want to have with you? I would want books, books, and more books! Is that one item? I would also require a solar-powered SM/Sirius radio (since I wouldn’t have electricity). I need my 70’s and 80’s music!
Gina Oellig and our other teachers are outstanding educators — committed, compassionate, and knowledgeable. Get to know some of our faculty members up close and personal.